Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Handle with Care!
According to the Mayo Clinic, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. When you hear the term PTSD, you think of veterans. It could also be first-responders, someone involved in a crime or accident, or someone who experienced abuse. For those who suffer from this diagnosis, that feeling can stay with them and never be fully resolved. That fear and stress continues, even after the danger has been long gone.
Studies have shown that an estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women (10.4%) twice as likely as men (5%) to develop PTSD. About 3.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 54 (5.2 million people) have PTSD during the course of a given year. For those in the military, 12 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans experience PTSD each year. That number rises to about 15 percent among Vietnam Veterans and as high as 11 to 20 percent for Veterans of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. There is historical and anecdotal evidence of PTSD affecting Veterans of wars before these as well. In the World War I era, PTSD was more commonly known as “shell shock,” and as far back as the Civil War, symptoms were referred to as “soldier’s heart” and “irritable heart.”
Clients who come in stating that they have PTSD requires a little extra patience and TLC. Some of the symptoms and challenges that we see with our clients who have been diagnosed with PTSD have been the following;
- Chronic pain
- Increase in headaches or migraines.
- Sensitivity to light and sound
- Trouble reading/visual disturbances.
- Increased startle reflex/jumpiness.
All of these things can be improved through receiving massage therapy. The first thing we must do is to create trust. We do that by taking the time to do a thorough intake. Listening is the number one thing anyone can do and it important to do it without judgment. The second thing is to create a soothing atmosphere with music, lighting, and warmth. Allowing them to see you and to ask permission to touch their back or other part allows the client to take charge. A treatment plan will be discussed so that there are no surprises and to make sure they are comfortable at all times.
The effects of massage with other types of stress, such as better sleep, decreased anxiety, uplifting mood, and decreased tension and pain may take more time for someone with PTSD. This is because talking it out or getting one treatment does not always lead to healing. It is a process, much like changing eating habits or exercise.
It may be better for the client to try a 15-minute chair massage first to get introduced to massage while staying clothed. The next time, they may try a 30-minute session just on their feet and hands, leading up to longer sessions that will eventually address the more severe symptoms or pain. Working at a safe pace and frequent communication will help to relax the mind and allow the muscles to unwind.
Massage therapy works well in conjunction with psychotherapy. Your massage therapist’s specialty is the body, the psychotherapist’s specialty is the mind. Utilizing meditation, essential oils, or yoga are great things to add to the mix to maintain the great therapy being received. If someone is not comfortable with their health care providers, don’t give up! Keep looking or ask your physician for referrals. Trauma can be healed, it just takes the right players on your team and to be handled with the care you deserve.
Copaiba helps to combat nervous tension, stress, and anxiety. It also helps to elevate moods and lift depression. Apply to the feet or area of concern. The scent is soft, sweet and balsamic.
Sandy Saldano, Lic. Massage Therapist
Owner of Therapeutic Kneads, Ltd.